Month: August 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Perhaps there is a conspiracy going on, fueled by the pyjama industry. I bet nobody has bothered to question this before. We just blindly change into our jammies before bed, like lemmings. Someone, somewhere, is laughing, sitting on a huge pot of profit from the sale of Tomas the Tank Engine pyjamas, satin nighties and tartan onesies.

The inventor of pyjamas feeling quite happy

The inventor of pyjamas feeling quite happy

This pyjama-wearing habit runs very deep. I challenged my eldest son to go to bed in today’s clothes and he just couldn’t do it. He refused to do it. He said it felt like being naughty.

The actual garment ‘pyjama’ has an interesting history (see that fountain of all knowledge, wikipedia). I don’t need to repeat it here and it’s of little relevance anyway.

Of course not everyone wears what we know as ‘pyjamas’ to bed (I wear pyjama bottoms and a vest top). Some people wear nothing. Others wear just pants. Some wear nighties. And others that throw-back to the 1980s, the night shirt (an oversized t-shirt). There are also people who might chose the very sexy ‘onesie’ that I’m sure will disappear completely in less than 12 months from now (I’d rather eat worms than wear one of those).

Is this called the 'twosie'?

Is this called the ‘twosie’?

But back to my original question: why do we bother to change for bed? Seems a bit of a waste of time and money to me. Sadly I have far too many pairs of pyjama bottoms and dressing gowns to throw this old habit away and wear my clothes to bed.

Actually, secretly, or not so secretly, I love my jammies.

 

 

Can you like both ketchup and brown sauce?

We’re in Borth again this week.

Blustery Borth this morning

Blustery Borth this morning

We left the husband / daddy at home. I brought some ketchup with us from home but left the brown sauce behind for him as he likes it on his double poached egg on toast for breakfast. When we are on holiday we always have bacon butties for breakfast. It’s tradition. With our bacon butties we like sauce, tomato or brown. Myself and my eldest two love ketchup. However, my youngest son doesn’t like ketchup; he likes brown sauce. Sadly for him I am too mean to buy some more brown sauce just for him. He had to have his bacon buttie with just butter.

Does this stuff float your bacon butties?

Does this stuff float your bacon butties?

This got me thinking (while cooking, not in the usual place) whether it is physically possible to like both ketchup and brown sauce. So I asked the ocean of opinions on Facebook and this is the response I received:

Friend One: At the same time? Or is that too weird?

Friend Two: Nope ketchup is lovely, brown sauce is ikky.

Friend Three: John [Friend Three’s husband] will often have both if eating a cooked breakfast.

Friend Four: I have a splodge of each with a cooked breakfast, and sometimes have a bit of each on a fork full!

Friend Five: I like both equally and mustard, horseradish and tartar sauce. I love all condiments.

Friend Six: I used to have cold mashed potato with ketchup as an afternoon snack. Not keen on brown sauce though.

Friend One’s idea of a joke: It’s not as if i spend all my time on facebook fishing for condiments.

These questions provoked a further, related, question to which the answer clearly is YES. If it is possible to like both, is it possible to enjoy eating both in the same meal? Apparently so, and even in the same forkful!

Do you dip your sausage in this?

Do you dip your sausage in this?

I’m not the first person to ponder this topic. In 2013, a website called News Shopper asked the same question relating it to bacon butties. Here you can see the statistics on the replies they got. Just over 1 in 10 people who responded think that either is fine. So this provides me with affirmation of my facebook results: it is possible to like both.

I’ve learnt something new today. It has been a useful day.

 

Common sense is my enemy

The other night my middle son said to me: ‘mummy, can I take my Lego pirate ship on the journey to Somewhere Abroad and can I carry it all the way there?’

My reply was: ‘Yes of course.’

I was dreaming. In my dream we were going abroad together. I’m not sure why. And in the dream I’d willingly allowed my son to take his Lego pirate ship (he doesn’t have one in the real world) on the way. Predictably he’d dropped it on the floor and Lego scattered. It had taken me ages to pick all the pieces up. Although a story of my subconscious, this dream reflects my reality quite well. My weird thought half an hour later on the toilet was: I’m not able to fulfill one of the most important of all parenting roles: Being A Kill Joy Parent. Why is that? In other words, why am I incapable of being the parent who sees the illogical in all the things the child really, really wants to do?

The imaginary Lego pirate ship

The imaginary Lego pirate ship

A good example happened a few weeks’ ago when we went to visit my dad and stepmum and I allowed my youngest son to take some Lego with him on our pub lunch. We hadn’t even left the garden before he dropped it and we were scurrying around for bits of Lego in the grass (very much like in my dream).

The place where we had our lunch that day

The place where we had our lunch that day

No normal parent, one with common sense that is, would have allowed their child to take a big pile of Lego for a walk (or on a plane journey).

I’m not very good at being the parent who says ‘No, you can’t wear wellies in July’, or ‘No, you definitely can’t go play on the M54 today’. It’s not because I fear the resulting tantrum or that I want to be their best friend, it’s because to me it seems a perfectly reasonable request.

Not a good place to play kirby

Not a good place to play kerby

So this got me realising that all my life common sense, or lack thereof, has been my enemy and this has got me into a lot of pickles. It was a lack of common sense that had me hurtling towards London with a boot full of food (see blog entry about roundabouts). This same lack of common sense means that I freeze on the beach in November or I have to take off four layers of socks, boots, and leggings just for a paddle. It also means that every time I have a bath I have to balance on one foot, with one hand on the sink, precariously leaning over to reach the towel thoughtlessly thrown on the floor earlier, using my book as an extendable arm. And it also caused me to lose an entire car park in Warwick. This lack of common sense packs my iPhone at the bottom of a bag full of other stuff. In fact it cannot work out how to pack a car boot when going on holiday. It also allows my children to take 14 books on a sleepover.

I wish I had more common sense. I wish I could buy some, on eBay or somewhere.

You'd think this were obvious

You’d think this were obvious

I’ve decided that the title of my autobiography, when I’m famous and old, will be Common Sense Was My Enemy.

Beds in cinemas – a great idea?

This is a thought I had in the usual place last night after a family trip to the cinema to see the first episode of the current series of Dr Who. We were in the cinema at 7pm and left just shy of 10pm (and had a jolly good evening). My youngest son, who is just four, was struggling to stay awake by 10pm. I was also feeling a bit restless after 3 hours in a seat.

Last night's Dr Who event

Last night’s Dr Who event

After we got home, my husband and I decided to watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother in bed with tea and toast before going to sleep. Watching TV from the comforts of a duvet and fury blanket is bliss. I love watching TV in bed. So, it occurred to me then, why hasn’t anyone thought to fill a cinema with beds?

If there were beds in cinemas we could take our children along in the evening knowing that if tiredness over took them they could just lie down for a while and have a short nap. I would also love the opportunity of forty winks during the fighty bits of certain films. I have a bit of a reputation for falling asleep at the cinema (AI, Wreck It Ralf, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I to name just a few) but that experience would have been far more pleasant with a duvet and pillows rather than sitting upright in a chair.

That lovely beast the Internet tells me that there is already a cinema that has six double beds in its interior.  It is in London and it is called the Electric Cinema. I need to go there.

The Electric Cinema

The Electric Cinema

The closest I can find to a cinema containing just beds was an event that happened a few years ago. The Parisian music hall, Olympia, was filled with beds from Ikea to promote mattresses from that lovely yellow-and-blue furniture shop for a one-off cinema screening event.

Comfy cinema viewing here

Comfy cinema viewing here

There is also a chain of Indonesian cinemas which offer ‘velvet seating’ which would offer an even more pleasant experience for film-watching than lying in my own bed at home.

Velvet heaven

Velvet heaven

So it seems I’m not the first person to come up with this idea. But Indonesia, and even London, are just that bit too far away for a night at the pictures. I just wish Cineworld in Shrewsbury would sit up and listen.

More on things found in books

This week my eldest son found two objects of interest in a Star Wars book he had recently bought in a charity shop in Newport (Shropshire, not South Wales).

A shop that is no longer with us

A shop that is no longer with us

This first one interested me more than it interested him as it is a receipt from that much-loved shop that died a few years ago: Woolworths. A shop loved by a number of generations of children, one which I belonged to, and the most recent of which out of all my children only my eldest can have a claim to belong in, just.

Woolies: the place to spend your pocket money in

Woolies: the place to spend your pocket money in

What Woolworths in Newport became and is now

What Woolworths in Newport became and is now

I like the Christmas message along the bottom of the receipt. I wonder at what point in December this message was added to the receipts. The receipt is dated 23rd December 1997. I imagine that it belonged to a boy who was probably around the age of my eldest son now, ten years old. A boy who loved football (and Star Wars). Someone spending his weekly pocket money on football stickers, eager to get home to stick them in his book. He’d probably had to do some persuading to get his parents to take him to town two days before Christmas. That boy is in his late twenties now. The stickers are most likely long gone. The receipt isn’t.

My son also found a ticket for a football match. I’m sure this will have belonged to the same boy. I wonder why he kept these two things inside the book. What was it about the Woolworths receipt particularly that he felt the need to keep it?

A football match watched two years after the stickers were purchased

A football match watched two years after the stickers were purchased

This boy was two years older by the time he went to the football match so I’m guessing about twelve. I’m sure going to see this match was a huge deal for him. It was the day after New Year’s Day 1999. The ticket cost £7. According to the Internet that is the equivalent of £10.76 now (not a bad price for a FA Cup match I’m sure). The Internet is an amazing source of information. Apparently the final score was 3-0 to Aston Villa. I wonder if that boy remembers this match. Perhaps he went to a lot of football matches and this was just one of many. Maybe it was a special Christmas treat. Does he remember it now?

I also wonder how long the Star Wars book in which these items had been hidden had been languishing in a charity shop in Newport. Had the boy, now a man, or his mum, recently had a clear out? Or maybe the book had been there for a few years.

I’ll never find out.

 

Do people swear more than they used to?

This is a weird thought I had the other day after watching ten weeks of Big Brother, the programme on which the participants seem to swear an awful lot. Earlier that day I had had to explain to my children (who during the school holidays seem to know when I want to watch Big Brother) yet again that swearing that much is ‘not what most people do’ and isn’t something they should do.

The house where swearing is expected

The house where swearing is expected

So later that evening I asked my husband: do people swear more than they used to? To which he replied with a high level of certainty ‘no’. I disagreed with him. We debated the issue for about ten minutes (without swearing) and finished the evening in disagreement.

I don’t recall people swearing much when I was at school, or when I went to University, or when I started work. I don’t remember my friends and fellow teachers swearing when I lived in Japan (in Japanese or English). My colleagues at Oxford University Press rarely let out a rude word (although Simon Winchester memorably shouted a very bad expletive at me once in a fit of temper over coffee – not about the coffee).

The man who wrote a book about the OED uses colourful language

The man who wrote a book about the OED uses colourful language

So, despite what my husband thinks, as far as I see it, people seem to swear a lot more now in the year 2014 than I remember before this current century started. But am I imagining it? Are people really more free with the f-word than they used to be? Or am I suffering from a selective memory?

One conclusion might be that now people use bigger swear words than I remember from my childhood. I recall my mum once calling Nicholas Parsons ‘that bloody man’ (although I can’t remember what he did to provoke that comment). At that time I felt very shocked at her colourful choice of adjective to describe the host of Sale of the Century. I also remember people at University saying ‘shite’ a lot (at first I thought it was a regional thing that hadn’t reached Stafford) but I don’t think I heard that biggest of all swear words (you know, the one that begins with the letter f) much.

I booked this bloody man in for an ultra sound once when I was a temp

I booked this bloody man in for an ultra sound once when I was a temp

I haven’t really felt much need to swear in my life except perhaps when someone is about to crash into my car or after I bump my head. Even then I only say what might be considered a relatively mild word – shite without the e. I can’t even type a bad word. Perhaps it is me that isn’t normal?

Psychologists will tell you that swearing is not only normal and commonplace, it is healthy. It provides a release of tension. It’s also definitely not a class issue: people from all creeds of life swear. Earlier this year, some clever psychologists at Keele University made a study of swearing and concluded that it is a coping mechanism, with no relation to IQ. They believe that swearing can make the swearer feel stronger.

Maybe if I swore more I wouldn’t be such a stress ball and I’d find this thing called life a little easier to bear.

 

How many hands do you wave with?

Last night I was watching Celebrity Big Brother (shhhh don’t tell anyone cool and interesting that I watch quality TV) and I became intrigued by the two-handed wave that one of the celebrities gave the crowd as she walked into the house of doom. I thought, I’ve seen this wave before but what does it mean and where did it come from?

The best of British TV in August

The best of British TV in August

Later on, in the usual place, I pondered: since when have we been waving like that? Why use two hands when one is sufficient? Was the Big Brother celebrity trying to make sure nobody missed her exit from the real world by using two hands? Was she trying to look more attractive and feminine (it does seem to be a choice of wave of females rather than males)? Was she subconsciously imitating a child’s wave with the hope of appearing younger and more innocent than she is to win popularity with the public? Or perhaps she wanted to appear pope-like?

The two-handed wave is popular with this celebrity

The two-handed wave is popular with this celebrity

Or is she just weird?

Children like to wave with two hands - I'm sure decent scientists know why

Children like to wave with two hands – I’m sure decent scientists know why

So earlier today I googled ‘two handed wave’ and was extremely disappointed at the results. There is very little out there about waving with one hand let alone two. I found this but it doesn’t help me at all with my query. According to the Internet, the two-handed wave is apparently:

Usually seen in a huge crowd of people, which makes it easier to avoid, although sometimes the best route is to acknowledge said person to ease the secondhand embarrassment. Also seen in stressed out mothers with 5+ kids.

Or if you believe the Urban Dictionary it means:

The act of waving with both hands by creating a groping motion, commonly to a sexually arousing woman.

I don’t think that is relevant in this case.

I also found some guidance on how to wave, but this doesn’t help me either.

None of this explains random celebrity in Big Brother’s choice of wave motion and the other people I’ve seen wave like this (people I can’t remember the names of now).

So my weird thought goes unanswered.

I like collecting interesting roundabouts and scary corners

I’m not sure that this classifies as a ‘weird thought’ but I think it classifies as weird so I’m half way there. I like to collect interesting roundabouts and scary corners. I will introduce a few here. I’d like to explore more.

There is a roundabout in Oxford affectionately known in our family as T.S.R. which stands for The Scary Roundabout. The real name of this roundabout is the Headington Roundabout. It was this roundabout that was responsible for sending me hurtling down the M4 to London with a boot full of food shopping, including icecream, on a very hot August Sunday afternoon many years ago. That was a very scary moment. I had taken the wrong exit.

Does this look scary to you?

Does this look scary to you?

I used to DREAD going around this roundabout when we lived in Oxford. I had a temping job once where I had no choice but to go on this roundabout to get from home to the place of work. I was so glad that that job only lasted only two weeks.

There is a roundabout in Shrewsbury that, in contrast to T.S.R., I find quite lovely because of its unusual shape. It is known to us in the Collins family as The 50p Roundabout. It isn’t even a roundabout as it is shaped like a 50p so it isn’t round (albeit a 50p with too many sides). My children also call it the rabbit roundabout after we were told that a colony of rabbits live on the roundabout (I’ve never seen any rabbits there). It is officially known as Meole Brace Roundabout (incidentally I like to call Meole Brace Melrose Brace after a rather naff US drama of the past).

Do these live on the 50p roundabout?

Do these live on the 50p roundabout?

The famous 50p roundabout

The famous 50p roundabout

There is a famous roundabout in Swindon I’d like to visit someday. It is known as the ‘Magic Roundabout’ and looks like a dalliance with death to me.

And the winner of the best roundabout in the UK is...

And the winner of the best roundabout in the UK is…

Another roundabout worth a visit might be the roundabout that was voted the best roundabout in the UK by the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society (yes, such an organisation does exist) in 2013. It circles a duck pond (almost as cute as rabbits).

The duck pond roundabout in Kent

The duck pond roundabout in Kent

And after visiting that one, I want to visit the roundabout that houses a windmill (winner of the best roundabout vote in 2012).

Have you ever been around this roundabout near York?

Have you ever been around this roundabout near York?

As for corners, I have two corners I am especially fond of. The first one is between Aberystwyth and Borth. It is the scariest corner I have ever had the pleasure to drive along. It is on a mountain side and it has an angle of about 40 degrees (or 320 degrees from the outside).

Which way to the scariest corner in Britain?

Which way to the scariest corner in Britain?

The second scary corner in my collection is between Charlbury and Chipping Norton. This corner sticks in my memory because my husband had to drive me from Charlbury, where we lived, to Chipping Norton, where the nearest hospital was, while I struggled not to give birth to my second son in the car. It was a particularly icy night in early March. I will never forget that roundabout. It marked the half way mark from home to hospital.

Do you know the scary corner between Charlbury and Chipping Norton?

Do you know the scary corner between Charlbury and Chipping Norton?

I hope this odd hobby of mine makes me more interesting than a train spotter. Perhaps I ought to start a note book of corners and roundabouts. But first, I want this book!

This is going on my Christmas list

This is going on my Christmas list

Is there a relationship between creativity and the ability to remember dreams?

This is a thought I had walking into the house yesterday (so not in the usual place, again). We were discussing dreams as we got home late at night after a party. My middle son was telling me about the strange dreams he has and he and I concluded that we remember our dreams a lot. My eldest son mused that he thought that he didn’t remember his dreams very often.

What will they dream about tonight?

What will they dream about tonight?

Before I go on, I want to add that creativity comes in all sorts of guises and I wouldn’t want to label one person as ‘creative’ and another as ‘not creative’. There are degrees of creativity and I’m sure that everyone has a more-or-less equal capacity to be creativity. I think that some people are more in touch with their creative abilities than others.

I’d say that my middle son enjoys using his imagination a lot and he is very good at tapping into his creativity. My eldest son is more logical and methodical and he struggles with imaginative tasks (although there are exceptions, he is currently creating a Lego Simpsons house because we are too stingy to pay £180 for the official one).

What my son wants me to buy for him

What my son wants me to buy for him

The home-made Lego Simpsons house

The home-made Lego Simpsons house

So it interests me that within our little family unit we have differing abilities for dream remembering. I remember most of my dreams. It is rare that I wake up not knowing what was happening in my head in the middle of the night. My eldest son, remembers just a few of his dreams. My husband, too, claims that he remembers few dreams. His brain works in a very similar way to my eldest son. They are both have very logical brains. They both love maths and even numbers of eggs.

If I had one of these it'd be overflowing with dreams

If I had one of these it’d be overflowing with dreams

So today after another weird dream involving a trip to Japan, spilling paint in the areoplane, and being back at college I turned to Google to try to find some answers. Look what I found! The scientists agree with me.

Then I found this. So I should be a genius by my age. And also this. What am I doing with my life? I should be the Prime Minister by now. Move over David Cameron.

I’m not being funny, but your blog is awful

I’ve lived in Shrewsbury now for six years. I do like this lovely, medieval town very much. As I’ve explained before I love straplines and Shrewsbury has a great strapline: the great one-off. There is even a video on YouTube about how lovely it is here (and it really is).

But there is one phrase I hear a lot out and about this town which I don’t remember hearing on the streets of Oxford (although it does appear on the Oxford Dictionaries website) or Charlbury and it is a phrase I don’t like. That phrase is: I’m not being funny, but.

A town which is full of people not being funny

A town which is full of people not being funny

This phrase now sits happily in my box of Phrases I Don’t Like (sitting along side ‘at the end of the day‘, ‘the bottom line’, ‘ping me an email’ and ‘keep me in the loop’). The reason I don’t like it is because when you hear it you know that something bad is going to follow. You know that some negative comment must be on its way. You hear this phrase and you need to brace yourself.

You never hear ‘I’m not being funny but, there are some lovely people in this world’ or ‘I’m not being funny but, let’s give everyone some chocolate tomorrow’.

Let's spread a little chocolate around the world

Let’s spread a little chocolate around the world

Perhaps I should change the reputation of this phrase and use it ad nauseum in my daily conversations with all the Salopians I know. But I need to follow it with something lovely and flowery. That will be my mission.

I'm not being funny but, flowers are pointless

I’m not being funny but, flowers are pointless

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